You Design: Sleepy Hollow

Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow has undergone several adaptations in its 200 year existence, but Tim Burton’s 1999 film Is the most unique and memorable take in recent years. Rather than presenting a simple horror story, Burton’s Sleepy Hollow takes the form of a murder mystery following a detective skeptical of the occult. The film was critically praised and nominated for three Academy Awards, and won the Oscar for Best Art Direction.

Burton tasked his creative teams with developing an environment that’s inherently eerie, shrouded in mysticism, and maintains the potential for a little dark humor. The sound team had the added challenge that their sound would always be competing with Danny Elfman’s masterful score. This sound and music had to work perfectly together by delegating emotional cues. While Elfman would be responsible for driving the action as well as lighting the mood for humor, the sound team would maintain anxiety and eeriness, as well as punctuate jokes with comical sound effects. Together, they must create suspense and rise to the big moments of a scene. What the sound designers ultimately created was fantastically haunting and would serve as a guideline for horror films, especially those of Tim Burton, in the future.